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The Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers: The Dynamics of a Failed Publication1

Les Gesta Guillelmi de Guillaume de Poitiers : les raisons d’une publication manquée
Gesta Guillelmi di Guglielmo di Poitiers: le ragioni di una pubblicazione mancata
Wilhelm von Poitiers’ Gesta Guillelmi: eine fehlgeschlagene Publikation
Lauri Leinonen

Résumés

Le présent article s’intéresse à la réception des Gesta Guillelmi de Guillaume de Poitiers et aux raisons de leur manque de succès. En dépit de ses divers avantages, littéraires et sociaux, l’œuvre a trouvé très peu de lecteurs et a été rapidement oubliée. On propose que la transmission ait reposé sur, ou consistait en, un autographe peu clair, perdu au XVIIIe siècle. Selon Orderic Vital, Guillaume n’a pas achevé l’œuvre en raison de “circonstances malheureuses”, probablement en rapport avec les relations de ce dernier et Guillaume le Conquérant. Cet essai contribue à deux discussions académiques émergentes, sur la publication par l’auteur et sur les raisons pour lesquelles certaines œuvres n’ont pas trouvé de public.

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  • 1 This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation pr (...)
  • 2 The title Gesta Guillelmi is editorial. The authorial title, if there ever was one, is unknown. The (...)

1This paper approaches the wider question of what it meant to publish a work in a manuscript culture, through an examination of one exemplary text, the Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers. The Gesta Guillelmi (henceforth GG) is a contemporary history of the deeds of William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy and king of England2. It boasted advantages that would normally have been conducive to literary success: its subject matter was an important one; its diction is refined and reveals rhetorical training; and its author was very well connected to prestigious circles of ecclesiastical and secular power. These positive circumstances at a work’s inception would normally presage a favourable reception and wide dissemination. But the GG instead enjoyed only a limited circulation during a brief spell of reception in the twelfth century and was then virtually forgotten for centuries. This disjunction between what might have been expected and the actual outcome is the subject of this study. I shall argue that a significant change of circumstances in the later stages of composition affected William’s chances of publishing the work properly.

  • 3 The term “publishing moment” is taken from Hobbins, 2009, p. 154 (for a wider discussion see p. 153 (...)
  • 4 Sharpe, 2009, p. 5. Non-authorial publishing in manuscript cultures, a perspective that attends to (...)

2The subject of the GG’s lack of success will be analysed here in light of the concept of authorial publishing. Publication is here taken to mean a series of acts designed to steer a written text to target audiences. The results of authorial efforts towards that end would shape the work’s subsequent transmission. It must be emphasised that publishing in manuscript cultures should not be regarded as a single act of providing the first copy to (a) select reader(s). Rather, the business would often have included various “publishing moments”, such as several releases of copies of the same work, as well as promotion by other means, for instance the asking for commendation from influential third parties3. Publishing, then, is “deliberate action with intention to make public”, and as the focus here is on the author and his circles, publishing is something distinct from later dissemination, which in this reading represents reception4.

3Attempts to observe the dynamics of publishing through the lens of an unpublished work, as will be done here, may appear to be a fool’s errand. Such a vantage, however, ought to help us identify and assess those factors that are fundamental to successful publication, which might otherwise emerge less clearly. In short, this paper is an attempt to perceive key social dynamics instrumental to successful publication. To this end, I will first assess the GG’s textual status. I will then seek to appreciate the modus of the GG’s release and subsequent dissemination, in which these aspects will be compared with those of contemporary histories. Finally, I will discuss William of Poitiers’ social networks, arguing that a change in them for the worse sealed the fate of his only surviving work, the GG.

  • 5 Niskanen, 2021a.
  • 6 Tahkokallio, 2019, p. 2, 8-9.
  • 7 URL: dmpn.helsinki.fi. L. Leinonen, S. Niskanen and O.-P. Kasurinen (eds.).

4This study thus seeks to bring together two developing scholarly discussions, one on authorial publishing and the other on the question of why so many medieval works effectively never found readers. Of the former discussion, one important thread is the social aspect of how authors’ networks could be used to advance an act of publication. A powerful patron who actively promoted a new authorial composition could make a real difference5. The term “publishing circle” has recently been proposed to denote sets of connections that could help authors to obtain readerships6. Such publishing circles are observable throughout the medieval period, as is now made plain by the Database of Medieval Publishing Networks7.

  • 8 Haye, 2016, p. 4.
  • 9 Ibid., p. 637.
  • 10 For a recent attempt to this effect, see Niskanen, 2021b.

5The other scholarly discussion which informs this essay, about the lack of authorial success in terms of transmission, is one where the pioneering work is Thomas Haye’s massive monograph of 20168. This work, which discusses authors in their hundreds, discerns various factors as to why (some of) their texts became forgotten. On the basis of this massive pool of evidence, Haye concluded that “[a] given work’s chances of survival increase or decrease in relation to the place, wider setting, time, subject matter and text type, as well as the social position of the author in question”9. By a close reading of the pertinent evidence, I will examine William of Poitiers’ GG through this lens10. In its failures, the GG showcases how authorial publishing could make a difference. Then, as now, the mere existence of a text was not sufficient cause to ensure readerships. To achieve reception, effective promotion was a prerequisite in most cases. The social aspect, the publishing circle centring on the author and embracing patrons, commissioners and other parties, was of great significance when seeking readers in the Middle Ages. Works had to be published, or they risked perishing through neglect.

The author

  • 11 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xv-xvi, xx; Davis, 1981, p. 74. William is known to have composed v (...)
  • 12 GG, ed. Duchesne, p. 178, 213.
  • 13 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xx. The GG can also be taken as an independent continuation to Dudo (...)
  • 14 The extant text begins with the death of King Canute in 1035 and ends with the death of Earl Copsi (...)
  • 15 The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens, ed. F. Barlow, and The GND, ed. van Houts(...)
  • 16 “The early [Norman historical] tradition culminated in him”, stated Barlow, 1967, p. 48.

6The GG recounts the deeds of William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy and king of England. The work was written c. 1071 × 1077 by William of Poitiers, archdeacon of Lisieux and previously a chaplain to the Conqueror. It is his only extant work11. It has survived only in the edition by André Duchesne, published in 1619 and based on a single manuscript. This manuscript, now lost, lacked leaves at both the start and the end, damage that has made it difficult to assess the status of the preserved text12. The work has been described as the “earliest extended biography of any duke of Normandy”13. The GG’s historical narrative in its present form runs from c. 1035 to 1067, but originally encompassed the period from c. 1028 to c. 107114. The crux of the work is the Conquest of England by William in 1066. In comparison to other contemporary works on the Conquest, namely Guy of Amiens’ Carmen de Hastingae Proelio (c. 1068) and William of Jumièges’ Gesta Normannorum Ducum (c. 1071), William of Poitiers’ account is in the main independent15. In short, the GG is an original piece by an author who wrote with confidence and insight16.

  • 17 OV, ed. Chibnall, I, p. 45-48. The main passages on William of Poitiers: ibid., II, p. 78, 184, 258 (...)
  • 18 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258. He was probably born around 1020 or earlier; GG, eds. Davis and Chibn (...)
  • 19 William remarked that he was in Poitiers at the time of the siege of Moulinherne c. 1049; GG, eds. (...)
  • 20Ipse siquidem praedicti regis capellanus longo tempore extitit”; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184.
  • 21 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258.
  • 22 Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, ed. D. Bates, no. 217, p. 695. Another candidate for “Guillelmus a (...)
  • 23 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258.
  • 24 See Orderic’s remark, discussed below in greater length, that William of Poitiers wished to extend (...)

7Most of what we know about the life of William of Poitiers and his work comes from the Historia Ecclesiastica of Orderic Vitalis (1075–c. 1142), written c. 1114 to 114117. William was born at Préaux in Normandy to a noble family. He served as a knight before embarking on an ecclesiastical career18. He received his education at Poitiers in the late 1040s19. After returning to Normandy, he was appointed chaplain to Duke William II, a position he held for “a long time” before becoming archdeacon of Lisieux20. According to Orderic, William served under Bishops Hugh (in office 1049–1077) and Gilbert Maminot (in office 1077–1101)21. A terminus ante quem for the beginning of his archdeaconship comes from a donation to the nunnery of Saint-Léger, made in 1075 and witnessed by “Guillelmus archidiaconus22. We may assume that he took up the ducal chaplaincy sometime in the 1050s, and that he was preferred to the archdeaconship in the early 1070s. In his old age William withdrew from public life23. The time of his death is unknown, but he outlived William the Conqueror, who died in 108724.

  • 25 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 14, 52, 66, 92.
  • 26 Chibnall, 1984, esp. p. 45-85, 209-220.

8While most of these details cannot be corroborated from other sources, the very little that William tells us about himself is in line with Orderic’s testimony25. The impression is that Orderic’s report about William’s life, from youth to old age, is in the main reliable. It is too detailed to have been lifted from some lost obituary roll. Because it also describes William’s years subsequent to the composition of the GG, Orderic, who became a monk of Saint-Évroult in 1085, must have had a source or sources who knew William personally. The archdeacon, a prestigious local ecclesiastic, would have been a figure known to the abbey’s brethren, for the house was situated in the diocese of Lisieux. That Orderic had access to the GG likewise testifies to some connection between William and Saint-Évroult’s brethren26. Indeed, the relationship may have been closer and William might have retired to Saint-Évroult or one of its dependent communities as a lay pensioner.

  • 27 Davis, 1981, p. 89. Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, no. 181, p. 599.
  • 28 Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, no. 48, p. 226.
  • 29 Domesday book, I, p. 1d.

9In contrast to what might be expected of a distinguished man of letters operating in close proximity to the ducal administration, William of Poitiers is almost non-existent in the charter evidence. In 1068 an otherwise unknown chaplain of William the Conqueror, a “Willelmus capellanus”, appears in the witness list of a charter for Saint-Martin-le-Grand in London. This man may, or may not, have been our author27. The above-mentioned attestation in 1075 is a more secure case. Furthermore, a “Willelmus Pictavensis” witnessed a donation to Saint-Étienne in Caen recorded in a charter datable to 1079 × 108728. The latest possible mention of William is found in Domesday Book: a “Willelmus Pictauensis” is mentioned as holding a prebend of Saint Martin of Dover from Bishop Odo of Bayeux29.

The Gesta Guillelmi in context

  • 30 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xx; GG, ed. Foreville, p. xii, xlvi-xlix.
  • 31 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xxx; OV, ed. Chibnall, p. 184.

10As a martial history written by an ecclesiastic, the GG is exceptional. In contrast to many ecclesiastical writers, the ex-knight William of Poitiers had first-hand experience of the realities of military campaigns. What is more, as a chaplain to Duke William, he had an understanding of the political and military aspects of government from personal relationships30. William drew extensively on his own recollections, but by virtue of his background and office, he was also personally acquainted with those who had been immediately involved in the events. William was frequently able to rely on the oral testimony of eyewitnesses, although he must have been selective in using them31.

  • 32 GG, ed. Foreville, p. xxi; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xxvi-xxvii.
  • 33 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xix-xxii, 189-190. William is, e.g., paralleled and favourably comp (...)
  • 34 Gransden, 1974, p. 101-102; The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy Bishop of Amiens, C. Morton and (...)
  • 35 Winkler, 2016, passim.
  • 36 For Orderic’s judgement to that effect, see OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184.

11The GG presents what was an “official” view of the past, as seen in the Conqueror’s court. Most importantly, the GG provides the fullest argument for the legitimacy of King William to the crown of England32. The GG is a secular biography, which praises King William more or less unconditionally33. As a result, the work has been taken as a sycophantic propaganda piece for the Conqueror, albeit one with considerable evidential value34. As regards literary style, the work leans heavily towards classical models35. The composition is testimony to a deep grounding in Latin literature and considerable authorial skill36. As such, the GG boasted a number of qualities conducive to success.

  • 37 Chibnall considers the GG to have been written on the king’s command; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 378. (...)

12The work also enjoyed support of an official nature. The GG was probably written on commission, apparently from the Conqueror himself37. By Orderic’s account, the work was presented to the king in a way that would, so it seems, have constituted a formal publication event:

Qui singulos conflictus et dampna quae sibi uicissim intulerunt diligenter uoluerit perscrutari; legat libros Willelmi Gemmeticensis coenobitae cognomento Calculi, et Willelmi Pictauini Lexouiensis aecclesiae archidiaconi; qui de gestis Normannorum studiose scripserunt, et Willelmo iam regi Anglorum fauere cupientes praesentauerunt.

  • 38 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 78-79. Translation is by Chibnall, except that I have rendered the verb pr (...)

But those who wish to know the details of the conflicts and injuries which each side inflicted on the other may read about them in the books of William called Calculus of Jumièges and William of Poitiers, archdeacon of Lisieux, who carefully recorded the deeds of the Normans and, after William became king of England, presented their works to him to gain favour38.

  • 39 GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. 4.
  • 40 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 92-94.
  • 41 Winkler, 2016, p. 460. William clearly wrote the work for public consumption rather than for his ow (...)

13William of Jumièges’ Gesta Normannorum Ducum (henceforth GND) was a commission from King William39. Orderic’s joint reference gives the impression that he considered the same to be true of the GG. Whether or not there was a formal dedication to the Conqueror (and any dedicatory epistle would have been lost with the head of the text), William of Poitiers clearly enjoyed high-ranking patronage. An eloquent testimony to that is the lengthy eulogy within the GG of his direct superior, Bishop Hugh of Lisieux40. A personal association with the Conqueror and his court, with a possible commission from him, and the patronage of a powerful bishop were certainly all factors that should have assisted the GG to successful reception41. Yet the work struggled to find any audience. There survives no manuscript and the GG’s primary and subsequent reception was sporadic at best. Did the author fail to take advantage of the many positive factors, literary and social, with which he had been endowed? This is a circumstance that calls for attention.

14The first point to bring into consideration is the GG’s textual status. According to Orderic Vitalis, the work was to be extended to the death of King William, a plan that was never fulfilled:

De cuius probitate et eximiis moribus, ac prosperis euentibus et strenuis admirandisque actibus; Guillelmus Pictauinus Lexouiensis archidiaconus affluenter tractauit, et librum polito sermone et magni sensus profunditate praeclarum edidit. Ipse siquidem praedicti regis capellanus longo tempore extitit, et ea quae oculis suis uiderit, et quibus interfuerit, copioso relatu indubitanter enucleare studuit; quamuis librum usque ad finem regis aduersis casibus impeditus perducere nequiuerit.

  • 42 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184-185. Translation by Chibnall, except that I have rendered the word edi (...)

His [William the Conqueror’s] virtue and high character, his successes and praiseworthy deeds of valour, have been treated eloquently by William of Poitiers, archdeacon of Lisieux, who has composed a book wonderfully polished in style and mature in judgement. He himself was for many years the king’s chaplain, and he set out to describe authentically, in detail, all the events which he had seen with his own eyes and in which he himself had taken part. But unfavourable circumstances prevented him from continuing his narrative up to the king’s death42.

  • 43 GG, ed. Duchesne, p. a4r; GG, ed. Foreville, p. viii; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xvi. Some amb (...)

15This passage stands in contradiction to Orderic’s above-quoted earlier statement, which implies that the GG was a finished piece of writing. In modern scholarship, this latter passage has been given precedence; the GG has been regarded as incomplete ever since the first edition by Duchesne43. That opinion is patently correct, but we need to ask in what way the GG might have remained incomplete. The GG’s only known manuscript, now lost, provides an answer.

An autograph and reception

  • 44 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xliv; Davis, 1981, p. 94-95. Cotton acquired the manuscript after 1 (...)
  • 45 GG, ed. Duchesne, fol. a3v; Camden, ed. Smith, no. clxxxv, p. 231-232. The manuscript was returned (...)
  • 46 No clear references to the GG are known from any medieval library catalogue. The existence of one o (...)

16Success in primary dissemination depends on authorial publishing. With the GG we lack the physical evidence of medieval transmission, the manuscripts. The only known manuscript of the GG belonged to the library of Sir Robert Cotton (1571–1631) and is presumed to have been lost in 173144. This Cottonian copy travelled via William Camden to Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, André Duchesne’s collaborator, and was used as the basis for Duchesne’s 1619 edition45. Duchesne’s edition preserves the only version of the text based on direct engagement with a manuscript; the later editions draw on Duchesne’s printing. As previously mentioned, the text of the GG in the Cotton manuscript was already incomplete, wanting leaves from the beginning and the end, with some leaves damaged. The Cotton manuscript remains the only copy for which there is certain evidence46.

  • 47Guillelmi Pictavini Codex, qui, ut diximus, ex instructissima Nobilissimi Cottoni Bibliotheca prod (...)
  • 48Je viens de recevoir tout maintenant votre paquet du deuxieme de ce mois, ensemble l’autographe du (...)

17The Cottonian copy was an early one, either belonging to authorial composition or primary circulation. Both Duchesne and Fabri de Peiresc considered the codex an autograph. In Duchesne’s words, it was “very old and of such a character which many regard as autograph, with good reason”47. Dating the script as contemporaneous with William of Poitiers, Fabri de Peiresc classified the codex as “l’autographe du fragment de Guillelmus Pictavinus48. As was common practice at the time, Duchesne neither made a detailed description of the book nor listed the features that had led him to conclude that it was an autograph. Even so, Duchesne and de Peiresc’s classification of the Cottonian manuscript as autograph can be demonstrated with recourse to the textual evidence. There are two pieces of evidence to call in support.

  • 49 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 84, 92-94, 177.
  • 50 Note that Foreville assumed that the dedication of Saint-Étienne took place in 1073; GG, ed. Forevi (...)

18The first, which has already been noted in previous scholarship, admittedly only amounts to soft evidence. William of Poitiers wrote of Bishop Hugh of Lisieux as someone still living but also referred to the dedication of the church of Saint-Étienne in Caen as an event in the past49. Hugh died on 17 July 1077 and the dedication took place on 13 September 1077. If William of Poitiers had written his text before the death of Hugh, he would not have referred to the dedication in the past tense, “dedicandum erat”. The implication is that William was still working on the GG for some time after Hugh’s death but did not update the lengthy eulogy to him, the wording of which proclaims a living person50. The impression given is one of an unpolished work. The case is not particularly strong, however, as it hinges on a single word, “erat”.

  • 51Ea illius temperantia fuit ac prudentia […] turmas militum cernens non exhorrescens”: GG, ed. Duch (...)
  • 52 Niskanen, 2019, p. 112; see also Willoughby, 2023.

19Our second piece of evidence, which has not been detected before, is considerably stronger. A fifty-six-word passage is found twice in the work51. Davis, the GG’s modern editor, proposed that the passage simply pleased William of Poitiers so much that he repeated it. I find this solution improbable. The repetition is verbatim and as such unparalleled in the GG and foreign to medieval historical writing in general. Formulaic phrases or sentences could be repeated, but our extract clearly is not some literary trope. The repetition testifies rather to authorial deliberation as to where the passage would best fit. In other words, one of the passage’s two occurrences was an interpolation, entered in the margin or on an erasure – a common feature in medieval manuscripts that stand close to an author’s first drafts52. This solution also explains Duchesne’s above-quoted remark that the Cottonian codex had the character of an autograph. It was an untidy book, William’s working copy.

  • 53 Camden, ed. Smith, no. clxxvi, p. 222.
  • 54 For a brief appreciation, see Herendeen, 2004, “Influence and legacy” and passim.
  • 55 See, e.g. Azzetta, 2021, tracing corruption caused by an untidy lost autograph of Dante’s Epistola (...)

20In support of that proposition, correspondence between Fabri de Peiresc and William Camden may be cited here in brief. Camden first sent a transcript of the manuscript, but this was “si mal correct” that Fabri de Peiresc asked for the original53. A bad transcript would have been uncharacteristic of Camden, a great textual scholar54. One is tempted to speculate that he relied on an exemplar which he found difficult to decipher. A working copy, with frequent corrections, erasures, interpolations and so forth, would have been such a book. Autograph features patently proved difficult for later copyists to deal with at times55. To conclude, the GG, as it survives to us, lacks the final authorial polish. Judging by the available evidence, the transmission was based on, or perhaps even consisted of, an autograph, unpolished and unpublished.

  • 56 GND, ed. van Houts, II, p. 192. Robert presented the GG with Guy of Amiens’ work, echoing a similar (...)
  • 57 GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. lxxxviii. Two longer textual reminiscences in ibid., II, p. 238, 244-246. (...)
  • 58 PL 150, cols. 39A-B, 41D-42A; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 248-250.
  • 59 PL 150, col. 41C; GG, ed. Davis and Chibnall, p. 84; GND, ed. van Houts, II, p. 238. Note that the (...)
  • 60 E.g. a draft of Lanfranc’s or Herluin’s Vita with excerpts pertinent to Le Bec; OV, ed. Chibnall, I (...)
  • 61 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xliii; Davis, 1981, p. 84 n. 1, 94; Körting, 1875, passim; van Hout (...)

21As for the GG’s reception, a handful of near-contemporary authors are considered to have had direct recourse to it. The most important was Orderic Vitalis (1075–c. 1142). The others included one of the authors of Liber Eliensis, a work written between c. 1130 and 1175, William of Malmesbury (c. 1090–1143) and Ralph de Diceto (d. c. 1200). It cannot be known whether or not they used the same copy or copies, although it must be unlikely that each of them had consulted a separate copy. Additionally, two authors based in Le Bec, Robert of Torigni (c. 1110–1186) and Milo Crispin (d. c. 1149) possibly knew the GG. Robert mentioned William’s work in his recension of the GND, datable to c. 113856. His use of the GG was very limited: four short passages possibly stem from it57. Milo Crispin’s Vita Lanfranci contains two passages probably taken from the missing parts of the GG58. Furthermore, the Vita Lanfranci relies once on one of the passages the GG shares with the GND59. It is not entirely clear whether Robert and Milo used the GG or another source dependent on the GG60. Another group of continental twelfth-century authors, Benoît of Sainte-Maure, Baudry of Bourgueil and Wace, quoted passages apparently stemming from the GG. They used in part the same passages, suggestive of indirect transmission; that is, they might have known the passages not at first hand but from a text excerpting the GG61.

  • 62 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xliii.
  • 63 Davis, 1981, p. 100.
  • 64 See Nortier, 1966. The GG was not attested in the twelfth-century booklist of Saint-Évroult; OV, ed (...)

22The current scholarly opinion is that the GG was transmitted by two manuscripts or through two manuscript branches62. One manuscript or branch of transmission, for which Orderic Vitalis is our main witness, was available in Normandy. The other was consulted by the author of Liber Eliensis and William of Malmesbury in England. Ralph de Diceto emerges as something of an outlier in the GG’s English reception, and it has been speculated that he received the manuscript he used from Normandy directly63. Naturally, the autograph which found its way into the Cottonian library might have been the copy consulted by one or indeed all of the English authors named above. Although unlikely, it is not entirely impossible that the entire reception, including Orderic, relied on the autograph. In any case, it can be stated that the manuscript transmission was a negligible affair at best. An indication to that effect is that the GG is not attested, or at least identifiable, in surviving booklists from Normandy and England (and elsewhere)64. Reading the evidence in a more positive spirit, a short spell of dissemination potentially of more than one manuscript can be detected in the diocese of Lisieux, Le Bec and perhaps Caen, with at least one copy crossing the Channel to be consulted by writers from Malmesbury, Ely and London.

  • 65 Orderic did not slavishly copy the GG, but rephrased and omitted text at will; Bouet, 1989, p. 28-2 (...)
  • 66 Orderic probably directed the monastery’s scriptorium for a time and acted as the community’s bibli (...)
  • 67 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 188-189.
  • 68 GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. lxxiii suggests Orderic knew the GG by 1113. The GG’s influence is recogn (...)
  • 69 OV, ed. Chibnall, p. xv.

23Orderic Vitalis is a witness to local knowledge of the work. He frequently used the GG in his Historia Ecclesiastica65. He probably found a copy of the GG and the source for his information concerning William of Poitiers’ life in his own monastery66. Introducing his sources, Orderic mentioned the GG and the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio and then gave lengthy accounts of the great chronicles of John of Worcester and Sigebert of Gembloux. As regards the latter two, he stated where copies might be found, “so that would-be readers may seek the manuscripts out for themselves, for they are the fruits of great learning, and are hard to come by. They have been written by men of this age, and are not yet widely circulated”67. The implication from the silence as to the GG’s whereabouts is that it was available for consultation closer to home, perhaps in Saint-Évroult itself. Orderic’s recension of the GND, in progress by 1109 and finished c. 1113, may or may not have made use of the GG: the point is debated68. If it did not, his first identifiable engagement with it is in Book III of the Historia Ecclesiastica, begun in 1114 or 1115 at the latest69.

  • 70 William of Malmesbury’s exceptionally wide reading is one of the best studied cases in the twelfth  (...)
  • 71 Gransden, 1974, p. 270-274.

24The histories of Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury and Ralph de Diceto rely on a plethora of sources, for which they had to search far and wide70. The same applies to the author of Liber Eliensis, the longest of all the medieval “local histories” written in England71. These authors were prepared to make every effort to find texts, and it may well have been entirely by virtue of their own dynamism and persistence that they ever came across the GG. As such, their use of the GG cannot be taken as firm evidence of effective circulation in the twelfth century.

Contextualising publication that did not happen

  • 72 Tahkokallio, 2019, p. 18-24, 26-31.

25In order to appreciate William of Poitiers’ prospects for obtaining readers for the GG, we may briefly recall the essential patterns of how two near-contemporary histories were published with success. William of Malmesbury released his Gesta Regum Anglorum (GRA) twice with recourse to very powerful patrons. On the first publication, c. 1125, the work was presented to King David of Scotland and Empress Matilda, and on the second to Duke Robert of Gloucester. Each was addressed with a dedicatory letter. Further releases followed after the two patron-centred issuings had helped word to get around. Institutional support was likewise important: the monastic communities of Winchester, Glastonbury and Malmesbury produced and loaned out copies72.

  • 73 Ibid., p. 35-43.
  • 74 Ibid., p. 43-47.
  • 75 Ibid., p. 48.

26Henry of Huntingdon (c. 1088–1157) kept on publishing his Historia Anglorum (HA), composed c. 1135–1154, over two decades. He released up to six recensions of the work through a variety of patrons. Each publication added to the dissemination of the ever-evolving work. The HA was first circulated within a very limited circle through copies made from an unfinished working copy. The first completed recensions, the third and fourth, were dedicated to his commissioner and superior, Bishop Alexander of Lincoln73. Henry had a copy of the fourth recension made available to Robert of Torigni, presented the fifth to Bishop Robert of Chesney, and the sixth recension was addressed to King Henry II74. While initially not very successful, probably due to the lack of institutional backing, Henry of Huntingdon’s work gained enough recognition to ensure notable later transmission75. To conclude, authorial efforts to publish historical writings could succeed handsomely, provided that one could mobilise powerful patrons and institutions to spread the word and copies. Having gained the requisite recognition, a work would be received and transmitted by new generations of readers. This did not happen to the GG.

  • 76 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 90, 92-94, 100. The final entry is merely “Lexouiensis episcopi Hug (...)
  • 77 Hagger, 2020, p. 223.
  • 78 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 88.
  • 79 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 92.

27The publication of William of Malmesbury’s GRA and of Henry of Huntingdon’s HA was an extended process, in the course of which the two authors actively sought patronage and revised their works. The eulogy to Bishop Hugh hints that William of Poitiers was following this same pattern. For there is reason to think that Hugh was not William’s patron from the outset of the project. Affairs at Lisieux are not a focus of the GG, and Bishop Hugh only features in it three times76. Interestingly, Hugh is absent from a passage which would have accommodated his first appearance in the work in a natural manner, the deposition of Archbishop Mauger of Rouen. The GG makes no mention of Hugh in the proceedings, nor that the deposition took place in Lisieux77. Precedence is given to Duke William and the decision and agency are made primarily his78. In contrast, in the eulogy to Hugh found later in the work, the meritorious responsibility for Mauger’s deposition is ascribed to Hugh79. As such, the eulogy reads as an interpolation, added only after William became the archdeacon of Lisieux.

  • 80 Cases, from Bede to Boccaccio, are too abundant to be listed here, see e.g. Root, 1913, p. 421-422.

28As is suggested above, William of Poitiers, who outlived Bishop Hugh, never updated his eulogy to him. A deceased bishop could not bring advantage to publication or ensure dissemination. Yet, there is no indication that William would have sought new patronage. The implication is that after 1077 he was no longer concerned with publishing it. It is of course possible that William circulated the unfinished text within the circle of his acquaintances, asking for comments and corrections. The practice was ubiquitous in the Middle Ages80. Yet he failed to find supporters, which is to be understood in the context of his social standing.

A setting for giving up

29We may begin with Orderic’s brief account of the old age of William of Poitiers:

In senectute sua taciturnitati et orationi studuit; et plus in dictando seu uersificando quam sermocinando ualuit. Subtiles et concinnos uersus atque ad recitandum habiles frequenter edidit; studioque iuniorum quibus ipsi emendarentur sine inuidia erogauit.

  • 81 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258-261. Translation by Chibnall, except that I have rendered the word edi (...)

In his old age he gave himself up to silence and prayer, and spent more time in composing narratives and verse than in discourse. He composed many subtly linked verses, intended for declamation, and was so free from jealousy that he invited his juniors to criticise and improve them81.

  • 82 Cf. GG, ed. Foreville, p. viii.
  • 83 William also partook in scholarly activities under Gilbert; OV, ed. Chibnall, III, p. 20-22.

30Although William of Poitiers did not give the finishing touches to the GG, he kept on composing new pieces. The GG was William’s magnum opus and we need to ask what the “unfavourable circumstances” referred to by Orderic were that led him to put it aside. Because William continued to compose other texts, the quoted words must imply some external factor pertinent to the GG82. We must look at his social context. His background suggests he was well entrenched in the social matrix of the duchy. He was the scion of a knightly family, well educated, a ducal chaplain and then an archdeacon, an admirable writer and a great historian. Of his old age we know only that he probably moved to a regular community; for William “gave himself up to silence and prayer”83. In what follows I consider the premature cessation of the GG in the context of William’s career.

  • 84 OV, ed. Chibnall, III, p. 18.
  • 85 William of Poitiers writes of “our army” and “our party” on several occasions; e.g. GG, ed. Davis a (...)
  • 86 Bates, 1982, p. 211; Hagger, 2012, p. 119. Later chaplains made bishops in Normandy include John of (...)
  • 87 Bates, 1982, p. 210-211; Hagger, 2020, p. 221-224.

31The Conqueror’s chaplains were engaged in a variety of functions. For instance, Gilbert Maminot, subsequently bishop of Lisieux, served the duke as his physician84. William of Poitiers’ specific duties as a chaplain go unrecorded, although he may have followed the army of the duke85. Most importantly, the office of ducal or royal chaplain was a way to achieve lucrative jobs and benefices. The Conqueror appointed at least three of his chaplains to bishoprics in Normandy: Baldwin to Évreux (1066–1070), Michael to Avranches (c. 1068–1094) and Gilbert Maminot to Lisieux (1077–1101). In England, eleven out of the sixteen bishops appointed by King William were royal chaplains86. On appointing prelates, the Conqueror relied on his own men, so that elections were negotiated within his circle87. As the duke’s chaplain as well as biographer, William of Poitiers was poised for promotion. The office of archdeacon of Lisieux was certainly a reward from the Conqueror.

  • 88 Douglas, 1957, p. 102-104; Crosby, 2013, p. 51-58; Hagger, 2020, p. 222-223; Bates, 1982, p. 209-21 (...)
  • 89 Hagger, 2020, p. 225-226, 247-249.

32Familial ties were likewise of significance. Bishops and other ecclesiastical dignitaries were in most cases members of noble families. They would promote their families’ interests along with those of the duke and the institutions they served88. Appointments were assessed and negotiated in relation to the complex of balancing power and incompatible interests89. It was unavoidable that multifaceted affinities should frequently cause conflicts. If a prelate did not prove co-operative under such circumstances, the Conqueror had no scruples about removing him from office. Numerous cases of falling out of the duke’s favour are known, and I only mention one well-documented case here to help contextualise what might have happened to William of Poitiers.

  • 90 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 40, 74.
  • 91 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 90 and 94. He obtained a royal pardon years after; OV, ed. Chibnall, III, (...)
  • 92 Similarly, Archbishop Mauger of Rouen, Duke William’s uncle, was deposed from his seat in 1054; GG, (...)
  • 93 Bates, 2016, p. 396-404, 441-445.
  • 94 One example is Samson, Queen Matilda’s messenger, who fled to Saint-Évroult. OV, ed. Chibnall, III, (...)

33Robert II de Grandmesnil had served as a knight before becoming a monk. He was one of the founders of Saint-Évroult, Orderic’s home community, and was made its abbot in 105990. In the same year the relationship between Duke William and Abbot Robert’s relatives, important magnates in southern Lieuvin, broke down dramatically. William exiled and confiscated the lands of several of Robert’s relatives. Called to the ducal court, Robert chose to flee to Rome. Having secured papal support, he attempted to return but had to retreat as the duke threatened to hang him91. Robert emerges as a victim of Duke William’s decision to eradicate a family that had become troublesome. High ecclesiastical office could not protect a man who had lost the duke’s favour92. Bringing down men was an instrument by which the Conqueror, notorious for his bouts of wrath, exercised power; his in-family feuds in the 1070s and 1080s are well known93. Even men who were merely clients of the duke’s adversaries were in danger94. William of Poitiers seems to have fallen into disfavour, either due to his own actions or collaterally – in liaison with the king’s enemy or enemies, his own kin group or some other alliance.

  • 95 Domesday Book, p. 1d.
  • 96 The GG arguably mirrors a Bayeuxian interpretation of the Conquest: GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. (...)
  • 97 Bates, 2016, p. 441-445.
  • 98 E.g. Bishop Gilbert Maminot was a major tenant of Odo, but remained in the king’s favour: OV, ed. C (...)

34Previous scholarship has predominantly taken William of Poitiers’ connections with Odo of Bayeux as a factor to explain why the former did not finish the GG. As mentioned above, a man named William of Poitiers is recorded in Domesday Book as holding a prebend from Odo of Bayeux95. The GG is favourable towards Odo and his circle but does not eulogise him96. In other words, the GG does not betray the existence of any strong affiliation to Odo that could have compromised William of Poitiers when Odo fell from grace and was imprisoned in 108297. More importantly, William of Poitiers abandoned the GG years before that, in the late 1070s. It should also be mentioned that if our author were the tenant of Odo recorded in Domesday Book, this merely evidences a connection that would hardly have been detrimental in 108298.

  • 99 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 62.
  • 100 Davis, 1980, passim; GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. xxxiv.
  • 101 Davis, 1981, p. 91.

35Robert Curthose’s first rebellion in 1077–1080 would be a perfect chronological match to account for William of Poitiers’ predicament. It has to be admitted that such a juncture amounts only to an educated guess. The GG is almost completely silent about Robert Curthose. Robert is alluded to in the context of his betrothal to Margaret of Maine, but only as the duke’s son, not mentioned by name99. It should be mentioned that none of William I’s sons are mentioned in the GG by name. Even so, I find it somewhat surprising that the heir apparent of the GG’s protagonist goes unnamed. This taciturnity, I propose, might have been effected by the bad relationship between father and son. The GND can be cited here as an analogous case: two references to Robert Curthose were deleted from certain recensions of the GND that were produced during these troubles100. Robert attracted a notable following in Normandy, and much of his support came from the noble families around Lisieux101. Perhaps William of Poitiers became entangled in the contest between the Conqueror and Robert Curthose. This could have been a side-effect of the complex of his loyalties.

36Another fresh speculation may be set out here, namely that William of Poitiers retired to Saint-Évroult, or to one of its dependent communities, as a lay pensioner. Two points allow for this suggestion. First, Orderic’s remark that William spent much time in private prayer and contemplation in his old age implies the setting of a regular life. Secondly, retirement in Orderic’s abbey or one of its cells would explain why Orderic had such detailed information about William in his old age, as well as access to his autograph or a copy of it. The fact that Orderic is the one who supplies so much of the detail about William and who patently handled the GG makes the argument: he had a personal connection. What is more, Orderic’s remark about the juniors whom William invited to revise his verses can be construed as an instance of affected modesty; in this reading, Orderic was one of these juniors. While William’s lay affiliation to Saint-Évroult or its cell remains a tentative suggestion, it neatly brings together the thin traces of evidence we have. And it only emerges in the interstices when one considers the failure of the GG’s transmission.

37While we cannot know precisely why William of Poitiers decided not to finish the GG, it is clear from Orderic that the reason was some external factor. The odds are that William lost the Conqueror’s favour. For a royal fiat would have resolved any “unfavourable circumstances” in relation to a third party that might have prevented him from completing the GG, a panegyric to the king. Although unpolished, his eulogy to the Conqueror amounts to an elegant and important eye-witness testimony to the latter’s deeds. The work did not live up to its potential. Because it was not published by the author, it was first known only locally, in the diocese of Lisieux where William of Poitiers reached the apogee of his ecclesiastical career and influence. Later in the twelfth century, the work was only consulted by a handful of historians. Most of them seem not to have known who the writer was. The GG, and its author, only achieved due recognition in modern times.

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Notes

1 This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 716538 (MedPub, Medieval Publishing from c. 1000 to 1500).

2 The title Gesta Guillelmi is editorial. The authorial title, if there ever was one, is unknown. The first edition of 1619 by André Duchesne entitled the work Gesta Guillelmi Ducis Normannorum, et Regis Anglorum. The later editions are based on Duchesne’s work. The most recent, accompanied by translations, are by Raymonde Foreville and by R. H. C. Davis and Marjorie Chibnall. For textual corrections by conjecture, see Winterbottom, 1999.

3 The term “publishing moment” is taken from Hobbins, 2009, p. 154 (for a wider discussion see p. 153-157). In recent scholarship, authorial publication in the Middle Ages is treated, explicitly or implicitly, as a process. See e.g. Sharpe, 2009, passim; Niskanen, 2021a, p. 1 and passim; Tahkokallio, 2019, p. 1 and, for an overview of various approaches to the subject, p. 3-9.

4 Sharpe, 2009, p. 5. Non-authorial publishing in manuscript cultures, a perspective that attends to the mechanics of subsequent dissemination, is likewise a fresh scholarly discussion, for which see esp. Tether, 2015 and Tether, 2017.

5 Niskanen, 2021a.

6 Tahkokallio, 2019, p. 2, 8-9.

7 URL: dmpn.helsinki.fi. L. Leinonen, S. Niskanen and O.-P. Kasurinen (eds.).

8 Haye, 2016, p. 4.

9 Ibid., p. 637.

10 For a recent attempt to this effect, see Niskanen, 2021b.

11 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xv-xvi, xx; Davis, 1981, p. 74. William is known to have composed verse, of which none remains. For two misattributions and the pertinent refutation, see Vernet, 1947–1948, p. 33-51 and Nortier, 1966, p. 344; PL 150, col. 1573.

12 GG, ed. Duchesne, p. 178, 213.

13 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xx. The GG can also be taken as an independent continuation to Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s Historia Normannorum; Dudo of Saint-Quentin, ed. J. Lair, 1865.

14 The extant text begins with the death of King Canute in 1035 and ends with the death of Earl Copsi in 1067. However, Orderic Vitalis mentions that William had extended his work to the death of Edwin, earl of Mercia; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258. We must assume that the GG also described the earliest years of its protagonist’s life and perhaps the death of his father in 1035. Aspects of the missing text can be reconstructed from the Liber Eliensis and the works of William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis, for which see Davis, 1981, p. 99-100.

15 The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens, ed. F. Barlow, and The GND, ed. van Houts. See also Bates, 2012, p. 131-133 and GG, ed. Foreville, p. xx-xxxviii.

16 “The early [Norman historical] tradition culminated in him”, stated Barlow, 1967, p. 48.

17 OV, ed. Chibnall, I, p. 45-48. The main passages on William of Poitiers: ibid., II, p. 78, 184, 258-260.

18 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258. He was probably born around 1020 or earlier; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xv. His family were apparently tenants of the de Beaumonts; Davis, 1981, p. 86. OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258.

19 William remarked that he was in Poitiers at the time of the siege of Moulinherne c. 1049; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 14. He perhaps studied at the school of Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand; Davis, 1981, p. 86.

20Ipse siquidem praedicti regis capellanus longo tempore extitit”; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184.

21 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258.

22 Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, ed. D. Bates, no. 217, p. 695. Another candidate for “Guillelmus archidiaconus” is William of Glanville, archdeacon of Lisieux around the same time. William of Poitiers’ familial connections make him the more probable candidate: his sister was Saint-Léger’s abbess: OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258 and III, p. 20; Spear, 2006, p. 174.

23 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258.

24 See Orderic’s remark, discussed below in greater length, that William of Poitiers wished to extend his work to the death of William the Conqueror but was prevented from doing so by “unfavourable circumstances” (“aduersis casibus impeditus”); OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184.

25 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 14, 52, 66, 92.

26 Chibnall, 1984, esp. p. 45-85, 209-220.

27 Davis, 1981, p. 89. Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, no. 181, p. 599.

28 Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, no. 48, p. 226.

29 Domesday book, I, p. 1d.

30 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xx; GG, ed. Foreville, p. xii, xlvi-xlix.

31 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xxx; OV, ed. Chibnall, p. 184.

32 GG, ed. Foreville, p. xxi; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xxvi-xxvii.

33 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xix-xxii, 189-190. William is, e.g., paralleled and favourably compared to Caesar, p. 29, 168-174.

34 Gransden, 1974, p. 101-102; The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy Bishop of Amiens, C. Morton and H. Muntz (eds.), p. xviii; Bates, 2012, p. 129-133; Winkler, 2016, p. 456-457; Beer, 1981, p. 13-22; GG, ed. Foreville, p. xlvi-xlix.

35 Winkler, 2016, passim.

36 For Orderic’s judgement to that effect, see OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184.

37 Chibnall considers the GG to have been written on the king’s command; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 378. For an elaboration of this proposition, see Bates, 2012, p. 130, 135. Shopkow, 1997, p. 43-44, 227 disagrees and proposes that Bishop Hugh of Lisieux commissioned the piece. Commissions were sometimes obtained after the work’s completion, a process for which there is late antique evidence. See Niskanen, 2021a, p. 18-19.

38 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 78-79. Translation is by Chibnall, except that I have rendered the verb praesentauerunt as “presented” rather than “dedicated”.

39 GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. 4.

40 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 92-94.

41 Winkler, 2016, p. 460. William clearly wrote the work for public consumption rather than for his own gratification; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 6, 58 and 158.

42 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184-185. Translation by Chibnall, except that I have rendered the word edidit as “composed” rather than “published”. For the meaning of the verb edere in Medieval Latin, see Sharpe, 2009, p. 1, n. 2.

43 GG, ed. Duchesne, p. a4r; GG, ed. Foreville, p. viii; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xvi. Some ambiguity can be detected in previous discussions. For instance, R. H. C. Davis wrote of the “completion” of the GG c. 1077; Davis, 1981, p. 74. Chibnall described the work as “unfinished” without specifying how; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xx. Bates, 2016, p. 355, suggests that William either chose to end the work with the fall of Edwin and Morcar or became disillusioned with King William, such that working on the GG became a “moral impossibility”.

44 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xliv; Davis, 1981, p. 94-95. Cotton acquired the manuscript after 1602 but before 1618: van Houts, 1992, p. 153; Garnett, 2020, p. 370.

45 GG, ed. Duchesne, fol. a3v; Camden, ed. Smith, no. clxxxv, p. 231-232. The manuscript was returned to Cotton; Tite, 2003, p. 10 and 52.

46 No clear references to the GG are known from any medieval library catalogue. The existence of one other, a more complete copy, was mentioned by Fabri de Peiresc in 1618. That copy had supposedly belonged to the library of Pierre Pithou (1539–1596), and Fabri de Peiresc had been promised access to it. However, the Pithou manuscript was never found or made available to Duchesne and Fabri de Peiresc; Camden, ed. Smith, no. clxxvi and clxxxv, p. 222 and 232. Wide-ranging searches have been conducted to no avail: Davis, 1981, p. 95-98; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xliv-xlv. Considering that the GG and its author were hardly known before Duchesne’s edition, the Pithou copy was probably a ghost based on a misidentification. This would not have been unheard of. In 1602, Camden misattributed a short text consisting of two excerpts from Orderic Vitalis’ Historia Ecclesiastica as the GG; van Houts, 1992, p. 153.

47Guillelmi Pictavini Codex, qui, ut diximus, ex instructissima Nobilissimi Cottoni Bibliotheca prodit, antiquissimus est, talisque notae quem autographum non immerito plerique existiment”; GG, ed. Duchesne, fol. a3v.

48Je viens de recevoir tout maintenant votre paquet du deuxieme de ce mois, ensemble l’autographe du fragment de Guillelmus Pictavinus bien conditionnè […] J’ay pris fort grand Plaisir de le voir, & crois veritablement qu’il soit escrit du tems meme de l’autheur: car le caractere n’est point plus modern que cela”; Camden, ed. Smith, no. clxxxv, p. 231.

49 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 84, 92-94, 177.

50 Note that Foreville assumed that the dedication of Saint-Étienne took place in 1073; GG, ed. Foreville, p. xviii-xix, 128 n. 2. The date of 1077 has since been proven; Les actes de Guillaume le Conquérant et de la reine Mathilde pour les abbayes caennaises, ed. L. Musset, 1967, p. 14-15.

51Ea illius temperantia fuit ac prudentia […] turmas militum cernens non exhorrescens”: GG, ed. Duchesne, p. 197, 211-212; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 102-104, 180. Both appearances are in the second book according to the modern division. Yet, in the authorial division, suggested by a rubric, they were apparently found in two distinct books; GG, ed. Duchesne, p. 199. Later editions, starting with Foreville’s, divide the work into two books, but place the division eight chapters earlier: GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xlvii; GG, ed. Foreville, p. lvi.

52 Niskanen, 2019, p. 112; see also Willoughby, 2023.

53 Camden, ed. Smith, no. clxxvi, p. 222.

54 For a brief appreciation, see Herendeen, 2004, “Influence and legacy” and passim.

55 See, e.g. Azzetta, 2021, tracing corruption caused by an untidy lost autograph of Dante’s Epistola ad Cangrande.

56 GND, ed. van Houts, II, p. 192. Robert presented the GG with Guy of Amiens’ work, echoing a similar passage in Historia Ecclesiastica; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 184-186.

57 GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. lxxxviii. Two longer textual reminiscences in ibid., II, p. 238, 244-246. The other passages only amount to four words (“Morinorum, quos moderni Flandros [appellant]”) and six words (“castellum quod sancti Jacobi appellatum est”); ibid., II, p. 60, 208 respectively.

58 PL 150, cols. 39A-B, 41D-42A; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 248-250.

59 PL 150, col. 41C; GG, ed. Davis and Chibnall, p. 84; GND, ed. van Houts, II, p. 238. Note that the GG presents the passage in connection to the dedication of Saint-Étienne of Caen, Milo Crispin in a passage on Lanfranc’s accession to the archbishopric of Canterbury, and the GND in its account of Boso’s accession to the abbacy of Le Bec.

60 E.g. a draft of Lanfranc’s or Herluin’s Vita with excerpts pertinent to Le Bec; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. xviii-xxi. Milo Crispin alludes to turning to another source, “to insert something omitted”; PL 150, col. 39A.

61 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xliii; Davis, 1981, p. 84 n. 1, 94; Körting, 1875, passim; van Houts, 1997, p. 106-110; van Houts, 1984, p. 119-120; Albu, 2001, p. 222-223.

62 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xliii.

63 Davis, 1981, p. 100.

64 See Nortier, 1966. The GG was not attested in the twelfth-century booklist of Saint-Évroult; OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. xviii. Neither do William and his work make any appearance in the volumes of the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues.

65 Orderic did not slavishly copy the GG, but rephrased and omitted text at will; Bouet, 1989, p. 28-29.

66 Orderic probably directed the monastery’s scriptorium for a time and acted as the community’s bibliotecarius; Chibnall, 1984, p. 33-34.

67 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 188-189.

68 GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. lxxiii suggests Orderic knew the GG by 1113. The GG’s influence is recognised by van Houts in chapter 13 (31); ibid., II, p. 160. Davis, 1981, p. 94, on the other hand remarks “there is nothing to suggest that he knew [the GG] when he made his additions to [the GND]”.

69 OV, ed. Chibnall, p. xv.

70 William of Malmesbury’s exceptionally wide reading is one of the best studied cases in the twelfth century; Thomson, 2003, p. 10-11, 40-75, 202-214.

71 Gransden, 1974, p. 270-274.

72 Tahkokallio, 2019, p. 18-24, 26-31.

73 Ibid., p. 35-43.

74 Ibid., p. 43-47.

75 Ibid., p. 48.

76 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 90, 92-94, 100. The final entry is merely “Lexouiensis episcopi Hugonis (de cuius uita supra scripsimus)”.

77 Hagger, 2020, p. 223.

78 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 88.

79 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 92.

80 Cases, from Bede to Boccaccio, are too abundant to be listed here, see e.g. Root, 1913, p. 421-422.

81 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 258-261. Translation by Chibnall, except that I have rendered the word edidit as “composed” rather than “published”; see n. 42 above.

82 Cf. GG, ed. Foreville, p. viii.

83 William also partook in scholarly activities under Gilbert; OV, ed. Chibnall, III, p. 20-22.

84 OV, ed. Chibnall, III, p. 18.

85 William of Poitiers writes of “our army” and “our party” on several occasions; e.g. GG, ed. Davis and Chibnall, p. 48, 52 and 66. This does not constitute conclusive evidence that he was present, of course.

86 Bates, 1982, p. 211; Hagger, 2012, p. 119. Later chaplains made bishops in Normandy include John of Lisieux (1107), Ouen of Evreux (1113) and Richard of Avranches (1133); Hagger, 2020, p. 224. See also OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 300-302; Crosby, 2013, p. 171-172.

87 Bates, 1982, p. 210-211; Hagger, 2020, p. 221-224.

88 Douglas, 1957, p. 102-104; Crosby, 2013, p. 51-58; Hagger, 2020, p. 222-223; Bates, 1982, p. 209-211, 226-228.

89 Hagger, 2020, p. 225-226, 247-249.

90 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 40, 74.

91 OV, ed. Chibnall, II, p. 90 and 94. He obtained a royal pardon years after; OV, ed. Chibnall, III, p. 158.

92 Similarly, Archbishop Mauger of Rouen, Duke William’s uncle, was deposed from his seat in 1054; GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 86-89. The deposition was likely connected to William of Arques’ rebellion against the duke: OV, ed. Chibnall, IV, p. 84-86; Crouch, 2002, p. 69-70; Hagger, 2020, p. 126-127; Gibson, 1978, p. 106-107. Also Lanfranc of Bec, prior and later abbot of Caen, had a falling-out with the duke c. 1050, and was banished from the duchy until being reconciled soon afterwards; Vaughn, 1987, p. 38-39.

93 Bates, 2016, p. 396-404, 441-445.

94 One example is Samson, Queen Matilda’s messenger, who fled to Saint-Évroult. OV, ed. Chibnall, III, p. 104. Samson cannot be identified from the obituary list of Saint-Évroult, which includes several monks of this name; Paris, BnF, lat. 10062, e.g. fols. 7v and 17v.

95 Domesday Book, p. 1d.

96 The GG arguably mirrors a Bayeuxian interpretation of the Conquest: GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. xvi-xvii, 90-92, 164-166; Davis, 1981, p. 80-82, 90-93; The Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens, ed. F. Barlow, p. 44. Cf. Shopkow, 1997, p. 94-95 and Bates, 2012, p. 141.

97 Bates, 2016, p. 441-445.

98 E.g. Bishop Gilbert Maminot was a major tenant of Odo, but remained in the king’s favour: OV, ed. Chibnall, IV, p. 80; Davis, 1981, p. 90-92; Crosby, 2013, p. 232.

99 GG, eds. Davis and Chibnall, p. 62.

100 Davis, 1980, passim; GND, ed. van Houts, I, p. xxxiv.

101 Davis, 1981, p. 91.

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Lauri Leinonen, « The Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers: The Dynamics of a Failed Publication »Tabularia [En ligne], Écrire l’histoire au Moyen Âge, mis en ligne le 14 mai 2024, consulté le 30 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/tabularia/7016 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/11o20

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University of Helsinki

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